Monday, December 26, 2005

So clean

The range of things, the danger of things,

the persistence of the same, the remembering of the name..

Special effects, each more special than the next,

still you get it in the neck, eat your egg,

the protein's so clean, unlike the things that lie between ,

the blissful and the strange ……serene.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Scottish food

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Scottish food is the best.

Walked up to the village this morning in a bid to blow away a mild hangover and get a paper. Looked over stone dykes, across fields and fences, into woodland and gullies. When you drive you miss so much, you also stay warm, however I enjoyed the change. I’ll do it again sometime. At about 1130 a big family breakfast followed, eggy piece (French toast but Ali likes to call it this), toast, sausage, tomatoes, bacon, rolls, mushrooms and dumpling. Is there any other culture where food is cooked twice as it is in Scotland? Frying an already cooked dumpling, infact burning it until the fruit caramelizes and then eating it with brown sauce. Tastes magnificent, but you’d never expect it to, it should be dreadful but it’s not. It’s the deep fried Mars bar thing again, totally odd foodstuff rehashed and made into a work or culinary art. Those foodies on TV haven’t a clue, a bit like the Scottish Exec.

Yesterday was spent studying the effect of carrying shopping bags long distances (between shops) on my shoulder blades trying to reach equilibrium in their balance. I now know my safe loading limit and for how long it is safe to exceed it. I survived without long term damage and did feel just a little smug about getting a hutch load of Christmas presents in one visit to Edinburgh. Much of the success of this was down to Ali’s planning and navigation as we swept across the tarmac and chewing gum surfaces of the city. Favourite shop? Blackwell’s bookshop is great, the staff are helpful and we got a lot of what we were looking for. Worst shop? Well I don’t dislike the shop as much as I used to, but Habitat in the West End is looking a bit shabby – best sort it out folks.

The wild birds that we’ve started to feed are now relying upon us I think, two great tits, a sparrow and a robin. Not much compared to the summer’s Mangey bird fest in Glen Esk but a start. Trouble is round here (on a shooting estate) birds tend to get shot at so you can understand if they are less than trusting of human kind. They’re not so keen on pork scraps however; seeds and fatty bits are the most popular. The cat is of course confused by this activity – he is spending more time in the fields and getting muddy, then coming in and jumping onto your lap to share the mud.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

We paint the scenery

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Painting the Scenery

Convince yourself, you may be right,
The one to fix and tell the story,
Chosen to paint the scenery,
While this play unfolds before me.

The boards are sprung and steady trod,
The words are elementary,
Design and weave this make believe
The plots and flops break gently.

They say there is master plan
Somewhere beyond the bright blue
Out where the brave dare not explore
In spaces answers dance, delightful.

You carry on your wicked ways
Entranced by glitz and greenery
To stake the higher claim they always will
Remain to paint the scenery.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Chocolate sleeping fountain.

More sleeper types you may encounter:

Limpet. Clings to his or her partner all night very tightly. The more the partner tries to shake of the limpet the more he/she clings. Often the struggle will become territorial with the limpet clinging and pushing across to the other side of the bed. In serious cases the limpet may have either cold feet, claw like toenails, bad breath, hot breath or some other tricky or unsocial characteristic. There may be a deep-rooted emotional problem that sparks this behaviour. Take great care.

Shape shifter. These awkward sleepers try to almost get into your space by treating you as if you were the bed yourself. They try to dominate and control all bed space by continually spreading around and (in their terms) exploring the bed. In extreme cases shape shifters will lie directly upon you, taking up the exact space you are trying to sleep in.

Cryogenic Lab. A seasonal variation problem, the cryogenic lab involves sleeping in a cold and unheated bed. For whatever reason body heat appears not to be sufficient to warm the bed, the room is cold and the attempting sleeper remains cold throughout
the night. A thoroughly unpleasant sleeping experience follows which seems to extend the night unreasonably. A hot water bottle may cure this but only if applied early in the night.

Cryogenic Lab Assistant. Basically sleeping with a very cold person, one who cannot or will not warm up and who also has the ability to suck the heat from you and your space until you are both equally cold, unhappy and wide awake.

Vixen. Bringing out both the animal and maternal the vixen curls into a half crescent shape as if suckling cubs and offering protection. As the night progresses small foraging trips may take place, usually to the kitchen. The vixen at these times is looking primarily for chicken or chicken flavour snacks that are required to keep the cubs fed. The snacks will however be consumed in the kitchen, usually by fridge door light only and in great haste. The vixen suffers also from increased anxiety at this time and a fear of discovery whilst foraging. Some vixens can experience unexplained weight gains during the lunar cycle that prompts this behaviour.

I am Chocolate. The sleeper believes that he or she is a bar of their favourite chocolate or sweet. They will remain still most of the night and in a rigid state wrapped in a sheet or duvet. Attempting to unwrap them will case confusion, distress and they will awake feeling disorientated. Problem cases may wrap themselves in t-shirts, astro or space blankets or zipped up sleeping bags at other times. Please take care.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sleep Observed

More sleep observations.

Positions and states – all variable, inconsistent and prone to morph from one to the other:

The Pixie. Usually a favourite of the younger female, socks should be worn to enhance the full effect. The position starts with the foetal curl but then gets tighter until the body becomes as small as possible with the knees tucked under the chin. Natural elasticity prevents permanent injury.

The Orang-utan. Mainly male but occasionally female this involves participating in a nightlong wrestling match with the duvet or in extreme case the duvet and pillows. In serious cases any sleeping partner is at great risk. The arms are used to amazing effect to twist and contort the bedclothes. Orang-utan sleepers often wake exhausted and will adopt the “tired basket weaver” for the remainder of the night.

The blacksmith. Accompanied by loud grunts and sighs “the blacksmith” slams the covers, palms down as if hammering hot metal or pumping imaginary bellows. Most of the movement is of the upper body and the spaces between the signs and arm spasms can be quite long. The individuals cheeks may go red and the eyes appear to bulge, don’t worry; these signs are perfectly normal in some one working with red-hot iron.

The tired basket weaver. Face down, arms so heavy they cannot move from the side, little or no movement from any part of the body. Occasionally the face and head will turn to left or right and some pillow drooling may occur. This position was named after a series of observations were made of the nocturnal habits of members of the basket weaving communities in Kaskakpest and Bravestia in the former Soviet Union.

Singer/songwriter. Many male and female participants, lots of elbow and wrist movement taking the form of strumming an invisible guitar or playing a keyboard but always under the duvet. Often accompanied by talking in the form of “cat on the mat” or “moon in June” rhyming couplets. Extreme cases will use phrases made famous by old blues men such as Robert Johnson or Muddy Waters, occasionally garbled Bob Dylan lyrics may also be expressed but in a pseudo American accent. Should they be recited backwards take great care not to wake the sleeper as they are in very deep and highly suggestible state at this time. Some sufferers may address their lyrical outpourings to cuddly toys or cats or dogs that may be sleeping nearby.

Dream script. A very steady state of sleep, little physical movement or activity but a during it a great deal of brainpower is expended. The sleeper will often believe they are working on a great movie script like “Apocalypse Now” or “Citizen Kane”. They then awake with an irrational desire to describe every remembered detail of the script to the first person they meet. Usually this is the person that they are in bed with, sometimes however it can be a stranger on a bus, the postman or someone in an early morning café or restaurant. They should be humoured and listened to, though avoid telling them that their “idea” for a movie is great, this may deepen their problem even further.

The Algonquin. A very stiff and intellectual position, on the back, hands by the groin, head straight back on the pillow with the eyes closed but staring at the ceiling. A hardback book or heavy magazine may sometimes be laid over the eyes. At the feet will be a quality Sunday newspaper (which may have been on the bed for weeks) left open at the arts or culture section. If pyjamas are worn glasses may be secreted in the left hand breast pocket. Algonquians always use hot water bottles irrespective of the season or who ever else is sharing the bed. They snore more than most sleepers and in a peculiar staccato style emanating from the rear of the throat. Should you confront an Algonquin with even the suggestion that they snore they will attack you.

Bambi after the death of his mother.
Legs and arms are folded under the body for long periods in this position, even when a bad case of pins and needles threatens. “Bambis” may imagine themselves to be covered either in leaves or snow during their sleep, they may also lick their own wrists or forearms and when in a deep sleep a “Bambi” may act as if their tongues have lives of their own. Partners of “Bambi” sleepers may find certain aspects of this endearing. They can however kick out powerfully at this time, possibly injuring those nearby. This usually takes place in the wee, small hours just before the cute and fluffy rabbits come out to graze in the moonlight.

Sex pest. Sex pests sleep face down, head to the right, right hand under left oxter, left hand on genitals. They smile a lot in their sleep and can become strangely agitated every fifteen minutes or so. Despite this they maintain this position until the alarm goes off. In the morning sex pests will usually shower longer than other sleepers. They also sing in the shower and seldom cook breakfast for others.

Gin Goblins. These people are delusional and think they need to be drunk in order to sleep, often partaking of a large gin or brandy prior to retiring for the night. Generally they have large ears, large ear lobes, hairy ears, purple ears, deaf ears, excess earwax and big red, pitted noses. They also have a lot of nostril hair, which can cause extreme breathing and snoring problems if it is not correctly maintained by a carer or their partner if either is still alive.

Radio controlled hamster. A particularly strange form of nocturnal activity, the “hamster” will begin to rotate in the bed. Starting slowly they will gradually increase in speed until they reach approximately one revolution per minute. Usually the cold night air on their feet awakes them and they return to normal sleep for the remainder of the night. Should their revolution cease at a point at the foot of the bed (the six o’clock position) they may begin to suck their partner’s toes. Should their revolution cease at the six o’clock position when the time is in fact six o’clock they ought to get up and make a nice pot of tea for their partner and have some sunflower seeds themselves.

Regressive Shepherd. These people still believe that counting sheep will get you to sleep, God knows why as there is no scientific proof of this whatsoever. It is just another daft thing that your parents told you along with:

a) The Black and White Minstrels are great – if only we could see them in colour.
b) George Formby is funny.
c) Boiled sweets are good for you and humbugs keep you warm.
d) If you dig on any beach you will eventually get to Australia.
e) The Rolling Stones will all die young (well one did).
f) Curry is bad and not natural.
g) The Sunday People is a good, truthful newspaper.
h) People who don’t cut their hedges are bad.

Monday, December 05, 2005


Sleep Techniques

Two major sleep induction techniques currently prevail within our household. The “paddle your fluffy canoe into the oncoming mist” (PyourC) method and “explore the forest until you find a suitable dark cave and then go inside” (EtheF). Of the two PyourC seems the most successful, not only does this method work quickly, it is highly adaptable and can be used in a number of locations and situations:

a) When horizontal.
b) When in a moving (safely driven) car.
c) When on a train.
d) Possibly after partaking of one bottle of red wine or any combination of gin and champagne.

Basically the individual puts themselves into some appropriate position from which the PyourC can be used. Once in this position a deep and satisfying sleep generally follows.

EtheF is more complex and relies upon a series of seemingly insignificant tasks being carried out within the forest. These amounts to simple exercises of exploration, some map imagining, avoiding wild animals, some orientation by sunlight or moonlight and of course looking out for caves. Caves can take time to find, particularly if the forest is thick, or flat or there are none of the right type of caves (deep and dark) about (terrain problems. Too much time searching for a cave can cause a mild sense of panic and worthlessness in the individual and that can make the search all the more tricky. When this happens a sound sleep can be hard to come by and the individual may begin to feel angry and frustrated. Don’t give way to these feelings, persist and sleep will follow eventually – on finding the cave naturally. If a good cave is found quickly, simply enter, allow the dark of the inner cave to envelope you and in no time you will be asleep.

Other sleep induction methods exist and depending on circumstances will work equally well:

1. Strange Hotel. This only works if you have drunk and eaten a great deal and are somewhere in the Midlands. A feeling of unfamiliarity is brought on by a number of powerful intoxicant drinks, some disorientation and the sound of an expelair humming in the background, these all generally assist. Some golden car park lighting or disturbing noises may also help.

2. Sexed out. A heavy feeling of fatigue, exhaustion, warmth and smugness overcomes the individual. In some ways this is a rapid or express version of PyourC.

3. Jetlag. Not a popular method as it can creep up on you at anytime after a long flight (or even during one). Usually a pain in the neck develops if not used horizontally, Jetlag sleep does not last long as a rule.

4. IanM. “In a Meeting” rarely happens; when it does it can be both disastrous and embarrassing. Best kept to be used in the cinema (as a variation) or possibly when watching a long special edition DVD in a friend’s home after a Chinese meal.

5. Coma. Usually self inflicted and can be brought on by the sum of all the sleep methods kicking in simultaneously. Best not sought after as it can be dangerous, it relies upon a series of unfortunate and tiring events running on together over a long period and finally ending as if a Boeing 737 had hit a concrete bunker (which happened to be flying in the opposite direction).

6. Artic. Pretend to be an Artic fox snuggled in a snowdrift deep in the cold wilderness. A strange feeling of mixed chill and warmth descend and overcomes you. A nice warm hot water bottle also helps set the scene. Also helpful and recommended is eating a small imaginary seal or polar bear pup early in the Artic experience.

7. Horlicks. A subtle variation on Artic, in this scenario the location is not important and the imaginary seal or polar bear consumption is replaced by a real cup of Horlicks taken prior to going to bed.

Please feel free to experiment in the privacy of your own home with all or any of these suggested methods. The list is not exhaustive. Bon voyage.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Chocolate Fountain

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Chocolate Fountain

A number of things arrived this weekend, each one shifting the tone control a degree or two further towards Christmas, parties, birthdays and the spending of money on odd, amusing and generally useless things. The second hand Nintendo Donkey Konga was the first surprise, bought in Livingstone* by means of a brilliant pocket money scam (two weeks in advance). This deadly device forces you into self mutilation on the electronic bongos as you attempt to clap, beat and boogie along with a variety of monkeys who are following a selection of sanitised tunes. It’s weird to try to keep up a rhythm to “99 Red Balloons”, Supergrass’s “Alright” and “Tubthumping” (kissin’ the night away?) and difficult not to fall into the trap of being a dumb dad who is totally unable to keep time. Is this true of our “Impossible Songs” tracks also? The Sims paid a short visit, they however will need a truckload of extra memory in order to work, bring back Lego towns and Tri-ang trains.

An outbreak of “Christmas Trees This Way!” signs has taken place on the road outside. Hardly a shock as there are Christmas trees all around us, most of which remain fixed to the ground by their own roots with no immediate plans to move. These others however, refered to by the seasonal signage will be lying like dead soldiers in the yard of the nearby sawmill. Once a healthy fall of snow has descended, at least a foot deep, we’ll don our duffle coats and squirrel skin scarves and visit the accursed spot, hand over a tenner or so and drag the fallen giant back across the snowy wastes and back to our house. Then as if in some mad transvestite ceremony devised by Prince Albert and Charles Dickens we’ll dress the dead tree up in fairy lights, tinsel and assorted tat. It’s quite fun actually – but we will wait until the week before Christmas and the tree will probably come from B&Q and I’ll have to dig the decorations out of the garage and it’ll be raining.

Mud: Sunday football a Saughton Park was a muddy affair, every time I park a huge puddle appears beneath the car so I’ve now lost all interest in cleaning it, though it now blends in with the Hopetoun / Saughton (any muddy place) battlefield landscapes like some camouflaged armoured personnel carrier. At least the boys won 6 – 3 over their Tynecastle rivals, only snag was that my little man of the match was not best pleased with his own performance. At least he did well at Donkey Konga.

I returned to find the DHL had delivered the CF, a very pleasant surprise, and an unexpected Sunday delivery of the right thing. This will form part of a big prezzie needed for next weekend as another of my offspring reaches a milestone birthday. Let’s hope that can get their act together before the 25th. I celebrated by burning a load of OOTB CDs, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while as the back catalogue was running worryingly low. Now I’ve a boxful to sell on Thursday.

Next a hike through the impossible songs folder of forgotten songs. We’ve started to plan our next recording venture and now need to wade through miles of half baked ideas and lyrics in order to demo some material for our friend Martin to start work on. We sat for an hour and two decent songs emerged, “God Bless the Witch” and “Holy Men” (there isn’t a theme here, just a tight little ball of anger rolled up in our respective chests). The other songs are ones we’ve played and gigged around for a bit, though they’ll need makeovers, hopefully more good material will emerge.

* What kind of place is Livingstone, Ned capital of Scotland? Brainless and tasteless appetites given new depths? No apparent design or plan, strewn with roundabouts, big sheds, Matalans, Currys, Carpet Drivel.. .a God awful white dome housing “designer” crap and a food court (I quite like Harry Ramsden’s mind you), impossible and confusing car parking layouts and people already in a shopping frenzy. A bit like the centre of Edinburgh I guess.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Monthly Mouse Hunts Without Mice

New York NewYork

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Monthly Mouse Hunts by moonlight.

The cat disappeared for most of last night. We were in late having been at a John Byrne talk-in (John talked, we listened, Ali dozed, John talked more and a few slides of his art work appeared out of order as some kind of disconnected backdrop). We collected a Chinese carry out on the way home, ate it whilst phoning around and sitting through the vacuum that is the 9 to 10 spot on TV. The cat returned at 3am. It made me wonder whether cats have any concept of day and night or even inside and outside. They really don’t seem to care about either. Staying tense, hunting and sleeping are their main occupations. So why has Tutti Frutti never appeared on DVD or video? An ideal dad’s Chrissy present if ever there was one. Come back Big Jazza and the Majestics.

Random kinds of Actress.

Tilda Swinton (the wife of John Byrne) is playing the Snow Queen in the Lion, the Witch etc. How do you get a gig like that? I saw her daughter also last night, a dead ringer for her mum and a lot better looking than her dad. The feisty, red haired, misty and wonderful painting JB did of Tilda is however one of our favourites.

New York.

The credit card bill for the NY extravaganza arrived, what on earth did I buy at the Museum of Modern Art that cost £89 and how come I only bought £13 worth of chocolate at the Hershey’s shop in Time Square? As for the helicopter flight…